Verona High School Recognized In Top 1.5% In Nation

By on January 26, 2019

Verona High School was recently recognized on the 2018 Jay Mathews Challenge Index in the top 1.5% of all schools in the U.S., #318 in the nation, #7 in N.J., and #2 among all conventional public high schools in N.J., our highest ranking ever. This ranking represents a significant climb from #1512, since 2016. ( The Washington Post America’s Most Challenging High Schools 2016). Also worth noting, our student performance on Advanced Placement exams have improved from 5 years ago, as student access and participation in rigorous coursework has increased.

Jay Mathews is an education writer and has been a columnist for the The Washington Post and Newsweek for nearly 50 years. Since 1998, he has been publishing his Challenge Index which ranks America’s most challenging high schools. He created this list over 20 years ago and most recently published the annual rankings known as The Washington Post America’s Most Challenging High Schools. “It is the only list that does not rely on test scores, which are more a measure of student family income than school quality,” says Mathews.

Jay Mathews Challenge Index is the only list that compares private and public schools. It ranks high schools by a simple ratio: the number of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests given at a school each year, divided by the number of seniors who graduated that year. Schools ranked are among America’s 22,000 high schools on this list (Mathews, 2018).

Verona High School’s recognition is a testament to how well our students are prepared in grades K-8 prior to entering Verona High School. This, combined with a quality staff, curriculum, and student supports has resulted in increased student achievement. This success is only possible through the constant focus, commitment, and support of the Board of Education, administration, staff, students, and families.

Why do we do what we do?
We believe that our students can achieve and maximize their individual potential. It is this purpose that drives us to provide the appropriate guidance and supports to assist our students to succeed. We open access to a rigorous curriculum to all students because it has been found that the most important predictor of college success is an academically rigorous high school experience (Adelman, 2006).

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K-8 teaching and learning in the Verona Public Schools provides students with the foundation to enroll in a rigorous course of study. We offer this strong foundation so that our students can pursue opportunities in high school that are engaging, interesting, and authentically challenging.

Equitable access is our guiding principle and we believe no barriers to academic course offerings should exist. In Verona, we explore ways to afford all intellectually curious and highly engaged students who want to challenge themselves with the opportunity to participate in Advanced Placement (AP).

How do we do what we do?

Make no mistake about it, the success of the Verona Public Schools is no accident. It is the result of thoughtful, strategic efforts and a commitment to our vision. We aim to engage all students in rigorous academic study. Our approach requires a sensible focus and relentless diligence to eliminate barriers that restrict access to academically challenging course work.

Our leadership team uses data analysis, student feedback, and teacher input to identify indicators for success. We wholeheartedly embrace the belief of challenging underrepresented students who possess the potential for academic success with high quality teaching and engaging learning environments. Our efforts have paid off.

Our long term strategy represents the contributions of strategic leadership decision-making, a coherent vision for curriculum planning, course sequencing, a culture of high expectations, high quality teacher instruction, personalized course counseling sessions with caring school counselors, and the dedication of our students and supportive parents.

What is the benefit?

  • Verona High School increased unique AP student participation by 85% and administered AP exams by 55% since 2014
  • During that same time, the percent of unique AP students who passed with a score of 3 or better on an AP exam has increased by 3.7% compared to 5 years ago
  • Additional opportunities for students to experience college rigor and develop college readiness while in high school
  • Enhanced strength of schedule while engaging students in academic areas of interest
  • Provide expanded opportunities for college acceptances and merit-based academic scholarships
  • Opportunities to earn college credit
  • Improved academic culture that is transformative for all students
  • Continuous, improved quality of our educational system
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To better understand this index : Participation in college-level AP, IB and Cambridge tests is a unique measure of the depth of learning. Success on the exams has been linked with success in college. The list is designed to recognize schools that challenge average students, so magnet or charter schools that have few or no average students are placed on a separate Public Elites list. The E&E % column shows the percentage of all seniors who passed at least one AP, IB or Cambridge test. The Lunch % column gives the percentage of all students whose family incomes are low enough to qualify for lunch subsidies (Mathews, 2018).

Learn more about the Verona Public Schools by reading stories on the amazing people, programs, and community by clicking the following link: Verona Public Schools Magazine 2018

Dr. Rui Dionisio is the Superintendent of the Verona Public Schools. Dr. Dionisio encourages community members to contact him with questions or feedback at 973-571-2029 or via email at [email protected]

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